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Year In Review Riverbank Winds Way Through 2013
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Luis Argumedo is cruising through the bicycle course under close direction from Deputy Gary Vernon at the Childrens Health and Safety Fair on Saturday, July 27.

The last six months of the year in Riverbank saw plenty of change, with resignations from the City Council and Riverbank Unified School Board, elections in November, and the loss of a respected local businessman and the arrest of his son in connection with the death. Those were just a few of the noteworthy events from July to December, with top stories noted here.



On Saturday, June 22 the Riverbank Historical Society gathered to give the Historical Museum, 3237 Santa Fe Street, building a decorative look just in time for the upcoming July 4 holiday. Historical Society President, Paulette Roberson was delighted when Gloria Bracco, member, donated six red, white, and blue flag buntings for the outside of the museum. Bracco purchased them from an online U.S. flag website. The buntings were made in the U.S.A., which seems to be a rare find these days, said Roberson.

An early Monday morning crash between a vehicle and a bicyclist in Riverbank left the bicycle rider with fatal injuries. California Highway Patrol officers out of Modesto responded to the scene on Terminal Avenue north of Plainview Road shortly after 4:30 a.m. on July 8. Officers said the bicyclist, a man still unidentified as of press time for The News, was riding his bicycle in the northbound lane of Terminal Avenue north of Plainview Road without a helmet. He also did not have any reflective clothing on and the bicycle was not equipped with lighting.

Gathering for a special early morning session on Friday, July 12, the City of Riverbank hosted a city council ‘breakfast meeting’ to reach out to business owners along Highway 108. The session was slated to run from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., in the council chambers on Third Street.

The H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) Club boxing gym, 3306 Santa Fe in Riverbank, brings boxing and an intense workout to the community. Owner Travis Price is a USA Boxing Coach, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer, and a former boxer with over 20 years’ experience that has chosen Riverbank to call home and the place to share his skills.

For the month of July the City of Riverbank will be hosting ‘Wednesday Night Out’ at the Community Center Park in Riverbank from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is no cost to attend and each Wednesday night features musical entertainment, food vendors, crafts, and many other booths and activities to enjoy.

A week long basketball camp ended on Friday, July 19 that was developed by 17-year-old Kathia Hernandez of Riverbank. The idea started seven months ago when Hernandez was trying to figure out what to do for her Gold Award project for the Girl Scouts.

The fate of embattled Riverbank native and acclaimed football coach, Kirk Peterson, will be in the hands of Riverbank Unified School District trustees on Tuesday, Aug. 6. For the third and final time, board members will vote to approve or deny Peterson’s admission to the RHS football program, where he has served as offensive coordinator for over four months. He was ultimately approved for the position.

The Riverbank Children’s Health and Safety Fair in conjunction with the Farmers Market held at the parking lot of Cool Hand Luke’s on Saturday offered a variety of activities for families. New to the fair this year was a Youth Triathlon that consisted of swimming, biking, and running. The registered youngsters met at the Riverbank Community Pool at 8 a.m. on July 27. This event was sponsored by Get Fit Riverbank, Oak Valley Hospital, The YMCA, University of California, Four H, Health Plan of San Joaquin, Riverbank Community Gardens, and Golden Valley Centers. There were nearly a dozen youngsters that participated in the triathlon.

It was a special evening on Monday, July 22 at the Riverbank City Council meeting as the council members recognized a number of city employees for their bravery and service to the City of Riverbank. Rudy Cervantes, Curtis Myer, Ray Pimentel, Ken Plaster, Rigo Ramos, Michael Riddell, Justin Smith, and Juan Vigil were all awarded a Certificate of Commendation, presented to them by Mayor Richard O’Brien. The commendation came for quick action in connection with a fire near the city’s Public Works Yard in late spring.



Diana Jimenez is the new Riverbank High School Principal and will be starting her first day of the new school year with the rest of the students at Riverbank High today, Aug. 7.

The final camp of the summer brought to you by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was called ‘It’s A Mad Mad World’ Camp offered at Jacob Myers Park from Monday, July 29 through Friday, Aug. 2. The camp ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

In a move to create more efficient and less costly protection for residents and businesses in Oakdale, the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District approved a plan on Thursday, Aug. 8 to study possible annexation of the city’s fire department.

The Riverbank community is mourning the loss of local business owner, Chamber of Commerce member, community activist, and friend, Scott Pettit. Early morning Thursday, Aug. 8, authorities arrived at a fire at the Modesto home of Pettit and his wife Janet and found the couple deceased.

The Science Lab building has been completed after almost a year and was ready to take on students just in time for the first day of school. A special Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was hosted on the campus of Cardozo Middle School (CMS) on Tuesday, Aug 6.

With a history of being a security guard with a license to carry a firearm and reported past boasting of phantom employment within the fire service, it may not be surprising that Brandon Pettit, 25, was arrested in connection with the murder of his parents. The bodies of his mother and father were discovered after an Aug. 8 house fire in Modesto.

Dozens of area residents gathered at the Riverbank Community Center Park on Aug. 14 to celebrate the lives of Scott and Janet Pettit and mourn their passing.

The Memorial service was held at the park on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and a reception was offered at Scott Pettit’s Karate for Kids school directly after the service.

There are exciting things happening in the Culinary Arts class at Riverbank High School taught by Nena Sandoval this school year. Currently they are having a cookbook fundraiser, from now until Sept. 8, with two cookbooks to choose from for $10 each. For every cookbook sold, $4 will go to the FHA-HERO (Future Homemakers of America and Home Economics Related Occupations) Club or food classes for field trips, events, and to help purchase uniforms.

As firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, local collections are gathering much needed items for them. The Oakdale Leader-Escalon Times-Riverbank News office at 122 S. Third Ave., Oakdale, is now a collection site for donated items, with a bin set up inside the office.



The newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series focuses on the City of Riverbank, from local author Glenn Allen Ditman and the Riverbank Historical Society. The book boasts more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by in the City of Action.

An early morning suspicious ‘find’ near the California Avenue Elementary School provided some anxious moments but ultimately was determined to pose no threat to the facility. On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 27, said school officials, a custodian found a backpack in the shrubs in front of the library facing California Avenue.

Riverbank City Council members gathered on Monday, Aug. 26 for the regularly scheduled council meeting and with just a handful of items on the agenda, no one could have anticipated what would happen by evening’s end.

Catching most attendees by surprise, at the end of the meeting Councilmember Dotty Nygard announced her resignation from the Riverbank City Council.

After five years of requesting a new roof from the City of Riverbank, the Riverbank Historical Society and Museum at 3237 Santa Fe is finally undergoing construction of a new roof.

Homecoming 2013 for Riverbank High School started off on Friday, Sept. 6 with a Fashion Show held at the quad during lunch. This year Homecoming Week officially runs from Sept. 9 through Sept. 13 and the theme this year is ‘Bruins Got Game,’ with each day having a board game theme.

Oakdale officials voted Monday, Sept. 3 to join with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District and Oakdale Rural Fire District into exploring the merger as one department. The move is anticipated to be a more efficient way of delivering fire protection and emergency medical services to a majority of the Eastern Stanislaus County area.

A tragic accident at Castleberg Park in Riverbank claimed the life of a young boy on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The California Highway Patrol investigated the accident, which occurred just before 7:45 p.m. at the park, corner of Eighth Street and Kentucky Avenue in Riverbank.

Riverbank City Council members have decided to fill the council vacancy created by the unexpected resignation of Dotty Nygard by appointment after hearing several suggestions from the public and the council discussing its own views regarding the situation at a regularly scheduled council meeting earlier this month.

Accomplishments of local youths were front and center at the recent Youth Court Benefit Dinner and Awards Ceremony hosted by Armando Reyes. The event was staged on behalf of the Center for Human Services (CHS) at the Galaxy Theatres parking lot in Riverbank on Wednesday, Sept. 11. A mix of businesses and vendors set up booths in the parking lot, offering food and beverages as a crowd filtered in to attend graduation ceremonies for the new Youth Court members.

The agriculture industry is a huge part of the Central Valley economy and most of the residents in this area know when summer is coming to an end due to the machines rumbling along the rows in an orchard and stirring up (more than) a little dust. Late August is the beginning of harvest for many of the nut growers that have trees that produce almonds and walnuts, with several weeks typically spent getting the crop in.



Riverbank’s vacant city council seat has been filled for the remaining term ending in late 2014 by Leanne Jones Cruz, by appointment of the city council at a special Riverbank City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 26. Jones Cruz previously ran for a vacant council seat during the November 2012 election.

The City of Riverbank’s Parks and Recreation staff members were out enjoying the sunshine with about 50 to 60 participants on Saturday, Sept. 28 at ‘Teen Fest’ hosted at the Teen Center to celebrate the youth in the community. This was the second Teen Fest event that the city has hosted, said officials, and the staff put a lot of thought into making the event a fun afternoon for the local teens between the ages of 13 to 19.

The sun was shining and Fred Stepp and the Jammers band were playing live music to entertain the guests that attended the fifth annual Barktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to show support for the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance (OSPA) and the homeless pets in the area.

Cardozo Middle School attendance secretary Laurie Ramos was living the dream.

The longtime Oakland Raiders fan was invited to sing the National Anthem at the Raiders game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Oct. 6. Ramos, who said she is a huge Raider fan, could not believe that she was invited to sing at the Oakland Coliseum but made the most of her opportunity.

Santa Fe Street in downtown Riverbank was transformed into a mecca of vendors, food and fun from Second Street all the way down to Seventh Street for the 37th annual Cheese and Wine Exposition, presented by the Riverbank Rotary Club.

A large crowd of people made their way to the Bicentennial Grove at Jacob Myers Park on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 17 for a special Tree Planting ceremony in memory of Scott and Janet Pettit.  The Friends of Jacob Myers Park and the City of Riverbank collaborated to host this event and have the living tribute and memorial for the Pettits. The tree was donated by Grover Landscaping.

Citing that he has the right to an appeal hearing under the district’s disciplinary policy and that he was not afforded the opportunity to confront witnesses, former Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Chief Steven Mayotte filed suit at Stanislaus Superior Court on Thursday, Sept. 12.

There are three open seats on the Riverbank Unified School District Board of Trustees that Riverbank voters will fill when they go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The school board members are elected at-large with the top three vote getters winning the seats. The five candidates running for the open seats are: Charles Neal, incumbent Elizabeth Meza, Patrick Hagan, Susan Taylor, and Suzanne Dean.



Anthony McKinney has been appointed to fill the current Planning Commissioner vacancy, a seat formerly held by Max Melendez, and McKinney was given the Oath of Office by City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar on Monday, Oct. 28.

Jacob Myers Park in Riverbank, with its access to the Stanislaus River, walking trails and picnic and playground area, has had a parking fee of $5 in effect for the past three summers. The fee that started in 2011 during the months of May through September has provided some benefits, collected through the summer of 2013 and is assisting with expenses of the park maintenance.

Two men were found guilty and another was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Chaz Bettencourt in a 2010 homicide case outside the AM-PM minimarket in Riverbank.

At a special joint Riverbank City Council and Planning Commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 both groups were informed on the issues and concerns with the current General Plan. The goal of the meeting was to spark discussion among both bodies so that there could be new policies drafted that will incorporate the economic environment that the city is in today.

Three sets of gondola-type dual trailers filled with 140,000 pounds of dried and hulled walnuts were surreptitiously taken from GoldRiver Orchards off Enterprise Road and Highway 120 in Escalon. Authorities believe the theft of the nuts, valued at $400,000, occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30 and 7 a.m. Thursday. Oct. 31.

In a league where the toughest small schools play on the gridiron, Riverbank High School is out of its league. Even head coach James Oliver will tell you that, and it’s the major reason he and his coaches went to the other coaches in the Trans-Valley League seeking approval for Riverbank to withdraw from the league and play an independent schedule. The other coaches agreed and the change will occur for the 2015 fall football season.

America Recycles Day was celebrated in Riverbank on Friday, Nov. 15. The Riverbank Council Chambers were filled with tables of information from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and that was the spot where the collection of a variety of recyclables also occurred.

The position he has been filling on an interim basis is now permanent. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and Riverbank City Manager Jill Anderson have announced Lt. Erin Kiely’s appointment as Chief of Police Services for the City of Riverbank.

The sun was out with temperatures that were just right as volunteers from Riverbank Christian Food Sharing, Riverbank Cares Committee, St. Vincent de Paul, the Cardozo Middle School leadership group, Cub Scouts Pack 10, and several others joined together on Saturday, Nov. 23 for the Fourth Annual Turkey Drive at Galaxy Theatres and Les Schwab Tire Center on Patterson Road.

Clear, brisk weather brought out both large numbers of vendors and a big crowd to the annual Christmas Festival in downtown Riverbank on Saturday, Nov. 30. Stretching down both sides of Third Street between City Hall South and the Plaza del Rio park, the craft faire started at 2 p.m. and continued until well after the annual tree lighting ceremony in the plaza after the holiday light parade.



Local Riverbank resident George Hernandez Jr. entered the US Bank Coin Flip Kid contest on the San Francisco 49ers website and came up a winner. As a result, the nine-year-old and his dad, George Sr. were invited to attend the San Francisco 49ers game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Dec. 1.

Central Valley Community Resources (CVCR) held a Thanksgiving Can Food Drive to provide meals to three Residential Care Homes in Riverbank. According to Darlene Barber-Martinez, CVCR Board of Directors, the CVCR effort collected enough food to feed approximately 35 people. A turkey was donated to each home.

A two alarm fire in Riverbank ultimately ended with an arrest, the suspect in the case due to face further court action. The fire occurred at a residence on Castlepark Drive on Wednesday, Dec. 4. There were six engines and 18 firefighting personnel on the scene. There were no injuries from the fire and there was an estimated $125,000 in property damage.

Decorative, creative, and extravagant tables filled the Riverbank Community Center for the Second Annual Holiday Luncheon hosted by the Riverbank Federated Women’s Club on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Neighborhoods, school zones, construction sites, and dangerous roads could use a little assistance in promoting compliance with the speed limit.

With the help of the Riverbank Sheriff’s Department Traffic Division and the City of Riverbank’s Public Works Department, the Speed Monitoring Awareness Radar Trailer (SMART) is currently available for use.

Members of the Riverbank City Council were asked to consider some changes to the Cheese and Wine exposition due to the Rotary Club expressing that it does not have the resources to continue sponsoring the event as it has in the past. The update for council was provided at the Monday, Dec. 9 city council meeting.

At a session that included the swearing in of newly elected trustees, one other turned in his resignation at the Riverbank Unified School District board meeting on Dec. 10. Trustee Steve Walker has resigned from the board effective Dec. 31.

There was quite the scene of Sheriff Vehicles, K9 units, and a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) truck that lined the entrance of Kohl’s Department Store for the Fifth Annual “Shop with a Cop” event on Thursday, Dec. 19 in Riverbank.

The Riverbank Local Redevelopment Authority (RLRA), a federally-recognized entity responsible for the redevelopment and reuse of the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant, is in the process of a massive cleanup project to remove personal property from the old Army Ammunition Plant in an effort to spur economic development.